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Embroidered Scarf – Ukrainian Easter Basket Cover

Easter Basket cover 2As you already know from my previous post, Ukrainians follow an Easter tradition of blessing an Easter Basket full of special foods, which is covered with a special embroidered scarf.

These scarfs are hand embroidered by family members, and used only for the purpose of covering the Easter Baskets.

Embroidery is very popular in Ukrainian culture, and used in many aspects of very day life, such as home decor, male and female attire, ceramics, arts and crafts, etc.

The Easter Basket Covers, not only include a beautiful cross stitched geometric design, but also an announcement of a special Easter greeting, and other symbols associated with the celebration of Spring and Easter.

Easter Basket cover

The writing you see above, pronounced, “Khrystos Voskres”, means, “Christ is Risen”, the true meaning of Easter for all Christians, and a greeting everyone uses beginning with Easter Sunday and continuing for several weeks.

Notice the pussy willows and the Easter Eggs embroidered on the cloth; also  symbols associated with Easter celebrations.

The real twigs of pussy willows, or palms, are blessed during the liturgy on Palm Sunday (the last Sunday before Easter Sunday), as a symbolism of Jesus Christ arriving in Jerusalem.

They are distributed to all the attendees, after the liturgy, as everyone is being anointed on a forehead, with a holy oil.

The recipients of these twigs of pussy willows, or palms, pat each other on the shoulder, and exchange a traditional greeting, announcing that Easter is coming in one week (Ne ya byu , a shootka bye, za tyzden Velykden).

These embroidered scarfs are removed from the baskets before the blessing of the food, and displayed in front of the basket, as you see in the picture at the top of this post.

Ukrainian women pride themselves on their embroidery abilities, the variety of embroidery designs and techniques, thus very proudly display their work to be admired by others.

Ukrainian Easter Basket – Beautiful Tradition

Ukrainian Traditional Easter BasketEaster is such a beautiful holiday, but here in the US, it does not even get close to the vast recognition that Christmas is showered with.

I know that for many people the best thing about Easter is ham dinner, and Easter Egg Hunt games.  These are wonderful and fun, but for me that is just not enough.  Easter is not only a secular holiday but also a very spiritual one, at least for Christians.

My family and I feel very lucky to be familiar with, and able to practice the Ukrainian Easter traditions.  Besides the 40 days of the Great Lent, and the different church services from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, there is the traditional Easter Basket Blessing,which takes place at the church on Holy Saturday, or right after the Sunrise Easter Sunday Liturgy, in other parishes.

Actually, not only the Ukrainians bless their Easter Baskets, but also the Roman Catholics in Poland follow this tradition as well, which is almost identical to the Ukrainian one.

Unfortunately, here in the US,  I am not familiar with any of the Roman Catholic churches continuing this beautiful tradition, not even the Polish parishes.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I am supporting my opinion by the conversations I had with my friends and acquaintances who are Roman Catholic, and of Polish decent.

I am very curious to know if the Polish Catholics in other foreign countries continue with this tradition, because I know for a fact that this is a must for Ukrainians all around the world.

By now you are probably getting very anxious to find out about this tradition, and of course I can’t wait to tell you.

Since the Great Lent lasts for 40 days, culminating with the morning of Easter Sunday, everyone is anxiously awaiting to partake of the foods in the Easter Basket at Easter Sunday breakfast/brunch.

The Traditional Ukrainian Easter Basket contains the following foods:

  • Paska (Easter Bread)
  • Ham
  • Pork (some people also add lamb and veal)
  • Kovbasa
  • Red Beets Vinaigrette
  • Horseradish
  • Boiled Eggs (including Pysanky for decoration)
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Wine (optional)

There is a symbolic meaning associated with each of these foods, but that will have to be a future post.

All of these foods are prepared a day before, and assembled in the basket the day of the blessing.  The completed basket is decorated with flowers and greens (optional, but almost everyone does it), covered with a foil or saran wrap, to protect the embroidered scarf from getting food stained.

The beautifully arranged baskets are taken to the local Ukrainian church for a Blessing.  The parish priest is all dressed in his special holiday robes, carries a cross, holy water and a prayer book, chants all the special prayers associated with all the foods to be blessed, and generously sprinkles the Holly Water all over the food filled baskets and his parishioners.

Blessing of Easter baskets

It is a beautiful site, to see the numerous baskets sitting atop of rows of tables, with a burning candle in each, and beautiful embroidery adoring each basket, not mentioning the wonderful aroma of the food.

Ahhh… if you could only imagine the aroma of fresh bread, smoked meats, horseradish…it is an amazing thing to experience.

The though part is, that you are not all0wed to eat any of this food until after the Easter Sunday Liturgy, and in addition to that, you are fasting the whole day on Holy Saturday.  Now you know why this food tastes so great on Easter Sunday.